Never leave your child alone near, with or in water inside or outside your home - children can drown in seconds and in silence in a very small amount of water
A few facts
- Children can drown anywhere there is water - in their home or garden as well as in pools and waterways.
- All children are at risk of drowning:
- Bath tubs pose the highest risk for infants, while swimming pools pose the highest risk for young children.
- Younger children are attracted to water - of all kinds - but do not understand the dangers.
- Older children, and indeed adults, may over-estimate their swimming skills and under-estimate depth or water conditions.
- It is very likely that you will not hear someone who gets into difficulty in the water - drowning can happen in silence - without any splashing or screaming - in an instant and in a very small amount of water.
- Children who survive a near-drowning frequently have long-term health effects from brain injury.
- Irish Water Safety tells us that, on average, 140 people drown in Ireland each year.
- Most drownings happen inland - in and around homes, on farms, in rivers and lakes - and are preventable.
- Constant responsible adult supervision of your child is most important near, with, in or at water - inside and outside your home.
- Remember too that there is an added risk of drowning when a child is wearing a nappy - the nappy will quickly fill with water and take a child under.
- Check out the Water Safety section on Child Safety Inside and Outside the Home on the HSE YouTube channel.
- Read our Healthy and Safe Swimming leaflet for tips on helping to make time spent in the water safe and happy.
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Prevent tragedy - take action now
- Children can drown in seconds and in total silence in a very small amount of water.
- Never leave your child alone near, with or in water inside or outside your home.
- While obvious water sources include swimming pools, sea, rivers, lakes, etc, there are many potential water sources around the home. These may include, but are not limited to, baths, sinks, toilets, mop buckets, basins, paddling pools, water barrels, garden ponds, water features, water troughs.
- Remember - anything that collects water can be a source of drowning danger.
- Teach your child to swim as soon as is appropriate - but remember, a child who is able to swim still needs constant responsible adult supervision in and near water.
In an emergency the "blue light" services - Garda Síochána, ambulance, fire and Irish Coast Guard - can be contacted by dialling 112 or 999 (www.112.ie).
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Water in the home (indoors)
- Never ever leave your child alone in the bath – even for a moment.
- Always drain the bath as soon as you are finished with it.
- Avoid using bath seats. They are not safety equipment. Drowning is a potential danger as a baby can slip out of the seat or tip forward or sideways into the water and become completely covered in the bath water.
- Hot bath water is the most common cause of fatal and severe scalds to young children.
- Be mindful of water temperature – always run the cold water first and add hot water and finally run cold water again.
- Test the bath water temperature with your elbow before putting your child in the bath.
- Take care with kettles and other appliances - scald injuries are common and can be devastating.
- Toilets, buckets, mop buckets, basins are other water collecting sources where children can access water indoors:
- Place toilet latches on toilets.
- Empty basins, mop buckets and buckets when finished with them and store away - out of reach of your child.
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Water around the home (outdoors)
- A shower of rain can produce enough water for a child to drown, so be mindful of any container (including mop buckets, basins, paddling pools, water barrels etc) which could collect water outside - check they are empty before you allow your child out to play.
- Supervise play in and around paddling pools - never leave a child alone with a paddling pool.
- Empty paddling pools as soon as children are finished playing and store the pool so that it will not fill with rain water.
- Be aware of the dangers of puddles where drowning is concerned.
- Cover/fence off sources of water (ponds, barrels, water features, troughs, etc) where possible.
- Never leave your child alone on a farm - fence off exposed areas, including slurry pits.
- Always tell children in your care that to stay S.A.F.E means to Stay Away From Edges.
- See our child safety around the farm webpage, read the water safety on the farm leaflet or watch the short Farm water safety video from Irish Water Safety.
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Rivers, lakes, ponds, seaside
- If you are not within arms' reach of your child, you are too far away. Children can move very quickly and can drown in seconds - do not let your child out of your sight or reach/hold when you are near rivers, lakes, the sea etc.
- Learn basic life support skills - visit www.stjohn.ie for information.
- Do not stay for too long in cold water and if you start to shiver or have cramps, get out of the water immediately and warm up.
- Throughout the summer there are beaches and waterways with lifeguards on duty who help to ensure that swimmers are safe - click here to search for the area nearest to you. Lifeguards are trained in drowning prevention and in rescue, it is not their job to replace the need for direct parental/responsible adult supervision. So even if there is a lifeguard on duty – watch your child at all times.
- Do not allow your child to interfere or play with life saving ringbuoys. Damaging or tangling them may mean they will not be effective if needed and a life could be lost. If you notice a ringbuoy is missing - report it. Remember "a stolen ringbuoy, a stolen life".
- Make sure you and your child wear a life jacket at all times when on a boat - no exceptions.
- The Irish Water Safety Society advises that it is vital to wear a buoyancy aid or a lifejacket when afloat or if your activity takes you near the water.
- Bouyancy aids and life jackets must be properly maintained, the correct size, properly fastened and you must understand how to operate them. These devices do not replace the need for direct parental/responsible adult supervision.
- The giant hogweed plant will often be found near water. Even slight contact with this plant can cause serious skin irritation - so keep children away from it.
- Always tell children in your care that to stay S.A.F.E means to Stay Away From Edges. Remember, reeds and grasses often hide the edge of waterways. So stay SAFE.
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Safe swimming - making swimming a positive and safe experience
- Supervise your child at all times - never leave your child alone near or in water. If you are not within arm's reach of your child, you are too far away. Children can drown in seconds and in silence.
- Swimming is an important life skill - introduce children to swimming as early as possible.
- Do not assume that a child who knows how to swim isn't at risk of drowning - all children need constant and uninterrupted supervision in water, no matter what their swimming skills.
- Even if there is a lifeguard on duty – watch your child at all times. LIfeguards are not babysitters!
- Learn water safety and basic life support skills - visit www.iws.ie and www.stjohn.ie for information.
- Check out the water before you let your child in – know how deep it is, watch out for sudden drops.
- Build up the amount of time your baby spends in the water – start with short sessions.
- Do not get cold/let your child get cold - remember body temperature drops quickly in cold water. Shivering means it's time to immediately get out of the water and warm up.
- Babies get cold very quickly and easily so it is important to make sure the water is warm enough for them.
- Don’t bring a child who is sick swimming.
- Use swim nappies for babies and young children.
- Do not swim in pools that look discoloured – you should always be able to see the bottom of the pool.
- Be aware of bathing water quality and DO NOT swim where water quality is poor. The EPA recommends the following information sources:
- Splash - before going to the bathing water you can check the Splash website to see the latest water quality (excellent, good, sufficient or poor) and find any current warnings or advice.
- Local authority – you can contact your local authority if you have any queries on bathing waters in your area. Many local authorities provide bathing water results and other information on their own websites.
- At the bathing water - lifeguards, where present, will fly the red flags when bathing waters are considered unsafe for bathing. You can check out the notice boards to see the latest water quality and any warnings or advice.
- Heavy rain - swimming after heavy rainfall carries an added risk of pollution from surface runoff and is best avoided.
- EPA Ireland Twitter Account – You can sign up to the EPA Ireland Twitter account and receive tweets of when bathing water incidents start and are over.
- Get more detailed information about healthy and safe swimming:
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Most unintentional injuries (often called accidents) can be prevented:
Remember the key message where child safety is concerned -
Watch your child at all times, as children do not understand danger
Images: Boy and inflatable boat on lawn © Pavel Losevskyy (www.dreamstime.com); Giant Hogweed by fran_sinclair (Flickr Creative Commons); Child Illustration © Dannyphoto80 (dreamstime.com)